Eighteen members of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara were killed in a joint operation by US, French and Niger troops near Niger’s border with Mali, the defence ministry said Tuesday.
The June 8-18 operation took place in the northern border region of Tongo Tongo “targeting a gang of ISGS terrorists implicated in an ambush on May 14,” in which 28 Nigerien soldiers were killed, it said.
“The toll on the enemy side is: 18 terrorists neutralised, five terrorists, of whom three are Nigerien, taken prisoner.”
There were “no human or material losses” during the operation, which was codenamed ACONIT, it said.
“Important materiel was recovered including equipment belonging to the Niger armed forces which were taken by the attackers after the ambush,” the statement said.
In October 2017, the ISGS claimed responsibility for a raid which killed four US soldiers and five Nigerien troops in the same region, a mere 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the Malian border.
That ambush claimed the largest number of American lives in combat anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa since the “Black Hawk Down” incident in Somalia in 1993
On June 8, a US army vehicle hit a landmine near the town of Ouallam, about 100 kilometres north of the capital Niamey, but there were no casualties.
The area is near a major training camp where Nigerien soldiers are trained to serve in a UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.
Late Tuesday, gunmen attacked a police station on the northern edge of the Niger capital Niamey, killing two policemen.
Niger is one of a number of poor, fragile countries in the Sahel region that have been hit by a jihadist revolt.
The United States has a big base for drones in the northern city of Agadez and Niger recently gave the Americans permission to arm their drones.
The French also have a military base near Niamey airport and another at Madama in the north.
Various insurgent groups operate in the country’s west and north, and Nigeria’s Boko Haram is present in its southeast.
The country is part of the so-called G5 Sahel group set up to manage a coordinated response to the jihadist insurgency.